Great idea – people helping each other

There are so many things to write about – but today, something truly good took place.  It is an all-round happy story.  It all got started a few years ago…

We all know that some of our neighbours are having a tough time making ends meet.  The cost of food and fuel (!!!) does not go into the official inflation calculations, yet we all know that feeding a family costs way more than it did even 6 months ago.  It is therefore not surprising that many families or people on fixed incomes end up relying on visits to the local food bank…  Sad, but true.

At the same time, local beef farmers were hurting.  The US had closed its market to Canadian cattle, which caused the prices of beef to plumet – at least, for the farmers.  Thwell, let’s just say that through a combination of many factors, the farmers were receiving record lows for their cattle, yet the prices at the stores were at an all-time high…

Now, there was a smart person (and I would tell you his name, if my ‘Google’ were functional today – rather than mangle the spelling, I’ll supply the name in an edit when I get my system up to snuff) who saw a way to make things better:  both for the people who had difficulty making ends meet – and thus were not likely to be able to afford much meat in their diet – and the local farmers who were hurting because they could not get a fair price for their livestock.

FOOD AID DAY was born!

The idea is simple:  people donate money, which is used to buy livestock from local farmers at a fair price.  This livestock is then turned into ground beef, which the Food Bank in turn distributes to those who are in need of help.

It’s a WIN-WIN-WIN situation!

  • The farmers win, because they get a fair price for their work, and do not end up at the Food Banks (or in forclosure, loosing the farm) themselves.
  • The people who are down on their luck and in need of the help get much needed protein, the importance of which is obvious. (315, 000 pounds of beef so far, and counting!)
  • The community wins, because not only do we have great fun during this day, we know ‘we gone done good’. 

During the day, CFRA, a local radio station and great force for good in the Ottawa-area,  was taking pledges on air.  And while many of us city folk dug into our pockets, there were calls from farmers who were donating a cow or two…  How cool!  It’s not every day you hear a person say “I’ll donate a cow!”

Since its inception in 2005, the highlight of the Food Aid Day festivities is the traditional ‘Celebrity Cow-Milking Competition’.  Local media people, personalities and politicians have called up their best farming skills to compete:  who can get the most milk from a dairy cow in one minute!

Yes, always entertaining!

And, this year, the winner of the 10:30 Cow Milking Competition?

Mrs. Laureen Harper – the First Lady of Canada herself!

Congratulations, Mrs. Harper!  Congratulations to all those who have worked hard to make today a success!  Last but not least, thanks to everyone in the community who helped – by participating or donating.

When good people come together, wonderful things happen.  It proves we CAN achieve things, make life better for all of us, that working together as a community really does bring people together like very few other things could!

Vaclav Klaus’ Washington CEI speech

This President is one smart cookie!

Yesterday, he delivered a speech in Washington, in which he said:

“It is interesting that you came up with the name Josef Alois Schumpeter (to intentionally use the Czech pronunciation). I don’t expect all of you to know that this great economist was born in 1883 on the territory of my country – the Czech Republic – in the small Moravian town of Třešť, belonging at that time to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. He was part of an important group of Austrian Moravians which includes names such as Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Karl Kautsky, Ernst Mach, Robert Musil, and many others.”

“Reading his Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, which was published in England in the 1940s along with books such as Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, one comes across a slightly different story, which is his evolutionary theory of the demise of capitalism based on its very success. His main argument – as I remember it – was that innovations would become a matter of routine, progress would be mechanized, problems would be “simply solved” by means of reason and science, entrepreneurship would be replaced by mere calculation, individual motivation would subside, collectivistic mentality would prevail and the growing importance of teamwork in modern large corporations would lead to the gradual obsoleteness and at the end disappearance of the crucial player (or perhaps mover) of capitalism – of the entrepreneur. That was his vision of the end of capitalism. He regretted it, but did not see it as the end of history, progress and development.”

The first problem this theory has is its connection with the reality because the world has not followed Schumpeter’s predictions.”

The complete text is on Mr. Klaus’ blog.

This, to me, is a telling analysis:  this economist looks at the theory, evaluates its internal consistencies (or lack thereof) – and then COMPARES THE THEORY TO REAL-LIFE OUTCOMES !!!!

Not only did he do EXACTLY THIS with the IPCC-type AGW/ACC ‘theories’ (and I do use the term ‘theories’ loosely) in his book ‘Blue Planet in Green Shackles – What is Endangered:  Climate or Freedom?’, he also points out the necessary consequence of actions currently being implemented to ‘mitigate’ AGW/ACC:  establishment of world government. 

So, why would anyone think there are any dangers in establishing this ‘world government’?  Mr. Klaus warns that we just might me passing world government into the hands of arrogant elitists who are convinced that ‘they know better than the rest of us’….  He asserts that some of the same people who are advocating establishing world authorities to regulate carbon emission – with the power of enforcment (that is, world government) – that were also advocating this 30 years ago in the name of world socialism.  Just listen to Glenn Beck’s second interview with him: 

Kind of makes you pause and think, does it not?

It should!

‘Blue Planet in Green Shackles’ – the ISBN#

This is the mystery of the disappearing planet….as in – where in the world can one purchase a copy of the English-language version of ‘Blue Planet in Green Shackles – What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?’

The English translation of this book by Czech Republic’s President, Vaclav Klaus, was released this week in Washington, D.C. – as I have learned from ‘The Reference Frame’, and wrote about earlier. I must admit, I was rather exited! Finally, I could get my hands on it and read what all this excitement is about.

Yet, I could not find how to get my hands on it! Judging from some of the responses I got, I am not alone…

My Mom always used to say: “If ever you are in doubt, ask a physicist!’ (Well, she said something like that – I think…) So, I did – and Mr. Motl from ‘The Reference Frame’ was kind enough to send me this reply:

Dear Xanthippa, the book is now printed in 17,000 copies only so it will disappear rapidly.,

has its ISBN codes:

* ISBN: 1889865095
* ISBN-13: 9781889865096
* Format: Paperback, 100pp
* Pub. Date: May 2008

Thank you, Mr. Motl!

Finally, here is a head of state who has actual scientific credentials! O.K., he’s not a physicist like Mr. Motl, but, Vaclav Klaus is pretty close: he may have been a mere economist (though a respected professor thereof), but he did spend most of his life at the Czech Academy of Sciences. Once politics no longer shackled his career (oh, I love how I worked that ‘shackled’ word in…sorry, it does not take much to amuse me…), he worked at Prognostics at the Academy of Science…. meaning, his professional expertise is in looking at scientific theories, understanding their implication, and then evaluating their long-term economic impact.

This means that President Klaus, more than any other world leader today, is eminently qualified to assess the IPCC report, both in what it says and in what the ‘remedial measures’ currently being implemented will have. I, for one, am very curious to read what he has to say. I wish that the World’s leaders would be, too!

Here is a link to Mr. Klaus’ speaking notes for the Washington D.C. release of his book:

The whole process is already in the hands of those who are not interested in rational ideas and arguments.”

The real debate should be about costs and benefits of alternative human actions, about how to rationally deal with the unknown future, about what kind and size of solidarity with much wealthier future generations is justified, about the size of externalities and their eventual appropriate “internalization”, about how much to trust the impersonal functioning of the markets in solving any human problem, including global warming and how much to distrust the very visible hand of very human politicians and their bureaucrats. Some of these questions are touched upon in my book. “

I, for one, am very curious to read what he has to say. Excuse me, I have to go talk to my local bookstore now…. in the meantime, here is Glenn Beck’s interview with Mr. Klaus on the topic of Global Warming activism:

Net Neutrality

This is a very important issue.  Net neutrality is essential to maintaining the freedom of speech.

Unfortunaltelly, this issue often gets confused and muddled…  A clarification is needed.

‘Net Neutrality’ is the principle that it is the user who legitimately pays for the use of the internet OUGHT TO be the one who decides on the content, application or platform of their choice, without artificial limits imposed by either governments or by the internet access providers.  Here is a quote from Wikipedia on three different definitions of ‘net neutrality’:

Absolute Non-Discrimination: Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu: “Network neutrality is best defined as a network design principle. The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally.”

Google’s “Guide to Net Neutrality”: “Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. The Internet has operated according to this neutrality principle since its earliest days… Fundamentally, net neutrality is about equal access to the Internet. In our view, the broadband carriers should not be permitted to use their market power to discriminate against competing applications or content. Just as telephone companies are not permitted to tell consumers who they can call or what they can say, broadband carriers should not be allowed to use their market power to control activity online.”

Cardozo Law School professor Susan Crawford states that a neutral Internet must forward packets on a first-come, first served basis, without regard for quality of service considerations.

 It does not mean that internet access should be free of charge, rather, it should be free of restrictions.

Let me give you a real life example:  There is an internet provider in my geographic location that is a large company with many divisions.  One of the divisions is an ISP (Internet Service Provider).  Another division rents movies.  Then they started a third division, which provides digital phone service.

As an avid internet user, I paid for the ‘highest’ level of internet access possible – ‘unlimited bandwidth’.  No, it is not cheap – but I do not begrudge my ISP a healthy profit, IF they provide me with excellent service.

Now, there came a time when a real-life legitimate company opened an online movie rental service.  It is all proper, above the board, royalties are paid and all that – we are not talking about pirated content here.  How do they distribute the movies?  Via BitTorrents!

At about this time, surprisingly enough, my ISP provider begun ‘trafic management practies’ which effectively blocked ALL BitTorrent communications!

Their argument was that they, as the provider, had the right to ‘regulate traffic’.  The fact that the means through which they chose to do this effectively prevented me (and any other customer) from using the internet service purchased from their ISP division fromlegitimately conducting business with a direct competitor of their ‘movie rental’ division’ – well, that was just accidental…..  Yeah, right!

But the timing was even more curious than that!  At this time, they also introduced their ‘Digital Phone’ service – something which required quite a bit of bandwidth.  Yet, they had not really built extra capacity in – that would cost money….  So, by limiting my access (along with that of many other users), they have, in effect, ‘freed up’ the capacity to introduce their phone service without any major start-up costs!

My son uses BitTorrents for gaming – and has not been able to partake of it at all since these ‘traffic management’ measures have been introduced.  I cannot purchase a legal service from my ISP’s competitor. And, I have found out, that my ‘unlimited’ access is only good until I reach a certain limit:  yet my ISP will NOT TELL ME WHAT THAT LIMIT IS!!!  Until I reach it, of course, and find myself without access for the rest of the month…..

Frankly, I do not think this is a good way to treat one’s customers.  Yet, the companies who own the ‘internet pipeline’ are few and many are related.  There is a real danger that they may adopt ‘industry-wide practices’ which severly limit the rights of their users. 

From there, it is only a small step to controlling not just the protocols and applications, but also the content of the internet.  And where a State might not be legally able to curb a point of view, an internet provider might have the means and ability.  And, if they claim they fear a lawsuit should they allow certain content through, who is to stop them from censoring free speech?

Today, there was a rally for support of ‘Net Neutrality’.  For those of us who get much of our news this way, it is an issue worth thinking about.

It has always appeared to me that the best way to protect the freedom of the many is to protect the freedom of the one.

Aspergers and writing – sentences

Writing a sentence seems like a simple thing – just figure out who is doing what, and write it!  Right.  Except it is not that simple for an Aspie

This seems incomprehensible to many teachers, parents, and any ‘outside observers’.  How come an Aspie is fully capable of presenting a coherent, detailed explanation of something without any preparation, but when asked to write a sentence or two on that same topic, they are unable to produce one?  How come that when asked a question, an Aspie student can speak for 15 minutes, giving exhaustive, accurate answer, but will only put down a single word as a response to the same question on a written test?

It does not seem credible – to the teachers or parents – that this could be possible.  ‘Just write down what you said!’ tends to be the response/command/advice, but it just does not work like that.  I do not know how or why, but I have seen it and experienced it.  Needless to say, this only leads to very high levels of frustration among both sides…

Many professionals in this field are studying this, and doubtlessly, there are many excellent theories about why or how this occurs.  I do not attempt to address that here – I just hope to look at the mechanics of how this can be overcome… at least, a tiny little bit!

First, the way language is taught is terribly important.  It can mean the difference between practical illiteracy (at least, in the ‘output’ phase) on the one hand, and ‘functionality’ on the other.  How can this be so?

Aspies tend to like to follow rules.  Perhaps not everyone’s rules, perhaps they have a lot of difficulty decoding social rules, but – once a rule is understood and accepted, Aspies tend to derive comfort from adhering to them.  This is true for language.

It is unfortunate that the current ‘model’ for teaching English (as a first language) in much of North America is the ‘whole language’ approach:  this is the hairebrained idea that children will simply ‘absorb’ the rules of English when they are ‘exposed’ to them.  Perhaps this may work for a small minority of kids.  It certainly makes the teaching less laborious, because the teacher does not have to actually teach grammar, correct grammatical errors in written work (we are looking for substance, not grammar…).  And, much more often than I would have liked, I have come across teachers who are not even able to follow simple rules of grammar themselves!

This is a major problem for Aspies:  the rules are difficult to ‘absorb’ – especially when the teacher does not use proper grammar….  Constructing a proper sentence then becomes quite bewildering.  Yet, many Aspies can master written language quite well, so there must be something else going on here.

Perhaps there is a different part of the brain that controls verbal and written expression.  Or, perhaps many Aspies consider things that are ‘written’ to be ‘permanent’ – and therefore there is a much higher level of perfection that is required.  I have asked many adult Aspies who have tremendous difficulties writing things, and there seem to be striking similarities among most of them.

First, the idea.  That is the easy part.  In other words, the Aspie knows what he (the friends I questioned were all men) wants to write.  The problem comes in the how to write it:  they will put a word down, wonder if it is the most accurate one – and start ‘googling’ it. Wikipedia probably has some pretty good definitons of this – you should check it…. 

The problem with Wikipedia

OK, refocus.  Now you have the correct word.  So, how do you fit it into the sentence correctly?  Is that the right grammar?  Perhaps you should ‘google’ that….


OK, refocus.  You now have a noun and a verb, most likely in the proper grammatical structure.  But it is nowhere near sufficient to capture the meaning…  Perhaps it is time for lunch.

And so it goes.  Not very productive, but, eventually, some semblance of a sentence will be produced.

So, how can one help a child learn to overcome this?

My personal exerience gave me some insight.  I was lucky enough to be able to reproduce patterns – sound patterns and picture patterns.  This helped me get selected for a language school when I was 8 years old… and while I was struggling to write basic sentences in my native tonngue, miraculously, I did not experience the same problem in the new languages.

Perhaps advice from a teacher helped: 

‘Do not write what you want to say, write what you are able to say!’

With a limited vocabulary of less than 50 words, and only a rudimentary rules of how to construct a sentence according to the new language’s rules, the prospect of ‘writing a sentence’ became more managable!  With only a limited number of permutations possible, selecting the best possible combination of them which most effectively gets the point across became easy!

When my older son got to a point in his schooling where he was expected to construct more than just simple sentences, he started having a problem.  Trying to help him, I realized that he only had a very basic (and somewhat flawed) idea of how English grammar works….


Basic textbook of Latin!

The reasons for selecting Latin were many:  from loan words down.  But the most important reason was that the Latin grammar was very explicitly spelled out – and that the endings of the words would change, depending on what role in the sentence that word played.  This is very key – it reinforces the rules of grammar, and helps figure out how to use them to construct a sentence.

My goal was not to teach my son Latin.  As a matter of fact, we spent no effort on memorizing vocabulary – we only focused on learning the rules for ‘flexing’ the words:  what does a particular ending mean – and what it tells us about the role this word plays in the sentence.  This skill was then easy to transpose into English sentence composition.

Yes – sentence composition.  Because that is how it has to be approached – this word is the subject.  This word describes the subject.  This word is the verb.  This word describes the verb….  and so on.

For younger kids, it might help to use tools:  on small, rectangular pieces of card paper, print a limited number of words related to the topic the child needs to write a sentence about.  Depending on the kid, start with 20-30.  Separate them according to their role in the sentence – it migh be very helpful to colour code them.  Nouns in one colour, verbs on another, pronouns, adverbs…so on.  Or, just separate them into piles. 

Then, when the child needs to write a sentence, let her/him pick out the right words and ‘build’ the sentence out of the ‘card words’.  Since only a very limited number of words are available, the child must be told the task is not to ‘answer the question’ – because that might seem impossible!  Explain to the child that the goal is to ‘build the best possible answer out of these words.  It will not be perfect – and it is not expected to be! Make it a game to try to create the best ‘best fit’ that could be done from this set of ‘card words’.

Once the sentence is created, the child can copy it – and use it as the answer. 

The word-pool can be altered, based on the topic. It can be increased or decreased, based on the child’s needs:  the more difficulties, the fewer words to pick from.  It is a tedious process, but it does work – or, at least, it worked in several instances when I have used it (not just with my own kids). 

My personal opinion is that it teaches several things: 

  • By limiting the pool of words, it makes ‘finding the right word’ easier – by making it OK to settle for the ‘best available word’.
  • By forcing the use of ‘different types’ (as signified by colours/piles of words, based on role played in the sentence) of words, the Aspie reinforces the proper use of grammar
  • This exercise builds one’s confidence in their ability to form sentences – which is much more important than most educators acknowledge.
  • Perhaps most importantly, it creates the habit to ‘write what you can, not what you want to’

It is not perfect, but this might help overcome the obsessive need to only write an ‘impossibly perfect’ sentence…

Learning to write is not easy for people with Asperger syndrome.  There are many obstacles in  their way:  from mechanical difficulties, to ‘holding onto their thought long enough to write it down’.  Add the desire for perfectioninsm in written expression…. 

Following the suggestions of professionals who know the child is the best way to help him or her learn to overcome the difficulties which are part and parcel of Aspergers.  Yet, if nothing seems to work, frustration levels are building, the child is unhappy… I know there were times when I would have tried just about anything!  And letting the child help sort the words just might take an edge off the frustration.

Blue Planet in Green Shackes

Finally, there is a release date for the much-awaited English version of Czech President’s Vaclav Klaus’ book,


What is endangered:  Climate of Freedom?’

President Klaus will be presenting it on May 27th, 2008 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C..

Thanks to Lubos Motl from ‘The Reference Frame’ for the tip!


Today, I seem to be experiencing some difficuties accessing my gmail….

desperate for the internet

If only things were that easy!